Understanding your child’s temperament can be the key to finding the best ways to support them both during the day and night. A baby’s temperament can be understood as the way in which they experience and respond to the world and their own emotions and sensations.
Temperament is influenced by a range of factors, including genetics; time in the womb; and birth process. As a child develops they are, of course, affected by their upbringing and experiences, thus developing a personality that combines their innate temperament with outside influences. Take a look at the table below, which includes nine key temperament traits as identified by the research of Chess and Thomas. Can you identify where your child seems to fit in?  
Some children tend to be more laidback and easy-going, are adaptable and predictable; whereas others tend to be trickier, becoming easily overwhelmed and anxious when routine changes or they meet new people. Some children are full of beans and constantly on the go, getting distracted left right and centre, and taking a generally positive outlook on life. Still, others are serious, stubborn and fussy, and switch from happy to meltdown in seconds. Around 20% of babies are considered to have at least elements of a high-needs temperament, and these babies are usually the most difficult to care for, causing anxiety and exhaustion for both themselves and their parents. If this is your baby, then I thoroughly recommend the following website for information, advice and support: http://www.thefussybabysite.com/high-need-baby-resource-guide/
So, what’s all this got to do with your baby’s sleep issues? Well, more than you might think, actually. If you’re wondering why your baby seems to struggle with sleep even though you seem to be following the guidelines or doing exactly the same as other mums and dads whose babies sleep through the night, then it may be down to your child’s temperament. Here are five tips to help you work with your baby’s temperament:
  1. Remember that your baby and you may not have the same temperament – always tune into your baby’s temperament and respond accordingly.
  2. Sensitive babies can struggle with change, no matter how slight. Bear this in mind and take things slowly when it comes to helping your baby fall asleep independently; weaning from night feeds; travel and changes in sleep environment; changes in light and temperature level at different times of the year; clock changes in spring and autumn.
  3. A baby that is anxious and sensitive may need more support when trying to fall asleep independently. Help your child to work through their tension by being present whilst they cry, and ease them into falling asleep on their own by gradually leaving the room.
  4. An intense, spirited child may be very stubborn when it comes to sleep work. Listen to your child’s protests and, if it sounds like frustration as opposed to anxiety, then they may simply need gentle boundary setting (with clear, compassionate communication) plus more space to work on falling asleep. Your presence in the room may not be doing them any favours.
  5. Some babies tend to have a passion for routine. If this is your baby, then respect this need as much as possible and your baby will thank you for it. This may mean missing some baby groups that fall asleep at nap times, or sticking to a rigid bedtime routine even when you’re on holiday.
Paediatric Sleep Consultant 



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